Marshall Islands prepare for OLPC deployment with national workshop

As noted on the OLPC Oceania blog last week, the Marshall Islands is the latest nation to receive new XOs through OLPC Oceania.

Oceania continues to be a model for solid deployments. The Marshall Islands project has a clear project document and technology plan, and is moving steadily towards implementing them. Last week the national team held an educators workshop with teachers from across the region, and Mike Hutak and Ian Thompson.

Acting Minister of Education Mattlan Zackhras encouraged all teachers to take advantage of the workshop so that everyone in the islands could benefit from the program. As he said at the opening ceremony,

By bridging the digital divide to an inclusive global community, our students here in the islands can share ideas with other students in the Pacific and from around world“.

OLPC and FabFi mesh networks bring Internet to Afghanistan

OLPC is working in 9 schools and 5 cities in Afghanistan. Many of the schools have some limited Internet connectivity at home, but most families still don’t have Internet (though they may get GPRS coverage if they have access to a cell phone) in their neighborhoods or home compounds.

In Jalalabad, this is changing in part thanks to a mesh network run by FabLab Jalalabad. Through their FabFi network, many children with XOs and their families have access to the Internet (and Wikipedia) for the first time. Fast Company wrote up a good story on this, following the New York Times’s lead last Sunday (commentary).

Similar FabLabs with mesh networks have sprung up elsewhere, most notably in Kenya. I hope to see them spread more widely in Africa and Asia – it seems like a robust and scalable model for engaging communities in maintaining their own networks.

Narrative Interfaces for OLPC

This Friday at 2pm EST, Scott and others will talk about how OLPC creates student-centric learning experiences, and how the software stack could become less shallow in terms of providing a narrative and journey to those experiences.

Those interested in joining are welcome to come to OLPC’s new offices at the American Twine building for the discussion. There will be streamed and higher-res posted video of the sessions as well. See Dr. Ananian’s blog for further details.

OLPC Canada reaches Maaqtusiis School in Ahousat

Maaqtusiis School in Ahousat yesterday distributed XOs to every student and teacher, and hired a community “champion” to assist with any technical difficulties throughout the school year. This is a model I hope to see other schools follow – and hopefully we will hear more directly from those champions as the year goes by.

Ahousat is one of the 12 communities selected for the First Nations pilot project in Canada.  It aims to distribute 5,000 XOs to aboriginal children and teachers in Canada this year.

 

 

OLPC Ghana: finally underway in the rural East

OLPC Ghana’s national program, initiated under the last national regime and supported by the Baah-Wiredu Laptop per Child Foundation, was deployed to one large town (the Millennium Village of Bonsaaso), but then was delayed for a year while the new regime reviewed the program.  Recently the rollout of XOs to rural parts of Ghana has continued.

Last week XOs reached a new school in the Suhum Kraboa Coaltar district, as reported by GhanaWeb, along with new furniture for the school. It is unclear from the report, but the laptops there seem to be in a new part the school, in a computer lab. This is unlike the project in Bonsaaso, and not the implementation we would recommend, but it is good to see that school connectivity in rural parts of the country is being revisited as a priority.

 

How to use a stylus with your XO

A team sponsored by Uruguay’s Universidad de la Republica has developed a simple electronics kit that can be used to modify an XO-1 to let you draw on its screen with a wireless stylus and a thin acrylic sheet, turning it into a touchscreen.  Christoph has written more about this and their related robotics work.

The methodology described in their project poster is brief and tantalizing – it looks like a most promising idea. The invention can in theory work with any screen or computer, but here they are showing how it works with an XO. Here is a closeup of a Lapix set in action:

Lapix hooked up to an XO, being used with inkscape

Lapix in action

 

Check out the photo and transcription of the project poster after the jump.
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butiábot: XO Linerider robot in action

Team BUTIÁ from Uruguay has been working on an XO robotics project for over a year. They showed off their line-following XO-robot, butiabot, in Montevideo this weekend. An XO running TurtleArt code hooked up to a mobile robotic platform followed a dark line along the ground.
XO on top of a flat wheeled robot, showing the TurtleArt program controlling it

They have posted some details of their prototypes online.
This reminds me of the XO hack to control a Roomba over the Net, but cooler, with Turtle Art and a realtime-hackable control program.

eduJAM! starts in Uruguay

The eduJAM! convocation is going strong, with 2-3 days of Sugar camp and discussion among developers and teachers from across the world. Keep an eye on the ceibalJAM site in the coming days for videos and notes from the event.

You can browse some of the presentations on the edujam2011 slideshare account.

eduJAM!-invitacion

eduJAM! invitacion

OLPCistas in Uruguay this week and next

Over 20 OLPC and Sugar collaborators are in Uruguay this week, visiting schools, meeting with the Uruguayan communities (ceibalJAM, RAP Ceibal, and the eduJAM event team), and preparing for the eduJAM! summit for Sugar developers and educators across Latin America.

The attendees are using a separate OLPC Uruguay 2011 blog for the week to track their various travels and projects in Uruguay. If you can’t be there yourself, you can follow along (and share your own questions for the group) here.

Only 24% of Jamaicans have access to a computer at home

Professor Hopeton Dunn of the Mona School of Business in Jamaica writes and speaks about the need for more widesperad access to computers in his country. Citing a recent ICT indicators survey, he notes that Jamaica has hit a plateau of access, and that while projects like OLPC are introducing more children to computers and the Internet (a kind thing for him to say, since we are working with under 1000 children and teachers in the region, largely thanks to the efforts of Sameer Verma and Charlie Nesson), new plans are needed to provide access in the workplace and at home for the whole country.

Read more at the Jamaica Observer.

Peru’s new XO assembly lines

Peru has a large and complex XO project, certainly the most varied anywhere, with its mix of rural and urban, powered and off-grid. Now they are adding local assembly of future laptops, something many countries have considered but few have carried out.

As noted recently, local assembly offers shorter startup times for production, and gives the deploying country more of a stake in the ongoing project.
Peru is being supported directly by Quanta, our factory in China, in this. Similar arrangements will be a bit easier now that the first one is underway, but this sort of arrangement is hard to work out unless the deployment team is planning for a steady flow of hardware delivered over years.

Nevertheless, this is a great step for olpc sustainability. Between Peru’s interest in assembly, Uruguay’s recent interest in design for new audiences, and Paraguay’s interest in developing better software and OS builds, Latin American deployments are taking up shared ownership of most aspects of the project.

From their official announcement:
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Dextrose 2 is available for the XO

Dextrose2, a revamp of the popular XOOS flavor developed by Activity Central and Sugar Labs, in partnership with Paraguay Educa, is now available for both XO-1 and XO-1.5 laptops. It has a number of performance and other improvements, including 3G modem and connection sharing. I can’t wait to try it out on my old XO-1s.

Dextrose 2 by activity central

The original Dextrose build + activities that was released last fall was based closely on the latest XOOS release available at the time (OS 10). This version has one major difference from the main OS: it does not offer a traditional Linux desktop as an alternative to Sugar.  (Some students managed to delete their Sugar home directories from within their Gnome desktop, making work with Sugar difficult until they had reinstalled it.  As a result, some teachers asked to return to a Sugar-only system.)

This work is now formally supported by Plan Ceibal, which has started to use Dextrose in their schools. It is good to see this much attention being given to activity development and Spanish-language documentation, and to close feedback loops with teachers who use the latest tools every week with their students.

So don’t wait — download a copy of Dextrose2 and try it out!

NB: If you’re looking for the latest Dextrose with the Gnome desktop option added back in, you can request this on the sugar-devel mailing list. It’s on the list of versions to make, but not a high priority at the moment.

Reflections on Sugar from Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Mentors from the Santa Cruz have started an ‘education alternative’ project and creativity center at a Children’s Home aiming to combine younger students with university students studying programming. They started working with 9-year olds on XOs and with Sugar, and after a few months have moved to working with 6-year olds and older students.

They offer some early feedback on using Sugar and Etoys in afterschool projects, and are working on engaging teachers and starting some programming projects. I look forward to seeing their reflections at the end of this season.

0.3% of XOs run Windows

A stray comment today about Windows not working on ARM machines, by someone who thought all OLPC laptops had moved away from Linux, reminded me to reaffirm something:

Every one of the 2M+ XOs we’ve ever made shipped from the factory with Linux. As far as I know, under 7,000 XOs have ever run Windows natively* – some 0.3% of all laptops we have ever produced. Most of those dual-booted into both Sugar and Windows XP, as part of programs sponsored independently by Microsoft. I know of a few teachers that had those machines in at least one class, but have never seen reports from a class using them — if you know of one of these schools, I would be most interested to hear about the experience — particularly from schools that used both OSes.

The XO community around the world includes one of the largest deployments of Linux to primary students anywhere in the world. This is something we can all be proud of.


* To be fair: running Windows in emulation through wine or SugaredWine is quite popular for certain activities.  Three cheers for the wine team’s excellent work!

Peru to deploy XO-1.75s this year, passing 1M laptops in all

Peru’s president Alan Garcia today committed to expanding their national program, the largest in the world, including developing national facilities for manufacturing / assembling laptops in-country. They will distribute their 1 millionth XO by the end of the year, reaching students in 100% of the country’s public primary schools, and 15 percent of all registered public school students. Some of these schools will get XO-1.75s, and 20,000 schools will get additional LEGO WeDo kits for use in class robotics programs. The XO-1.75 will use a Marvell Armada 600 ARM chip, lowering power consumption to make it the most energy efficient laptop around.

Rodrigo Arboleda said of the latest announcement: “Being the largest deployment worldwide, Peru is an outstanding example of OLPC. We hope to see other countries establish manufacturing facilities of the scale and magnitude of Peru’s. Local manufacturing of XO laptops will enable Peru both to transform education and to make important investments in its economy.”

Peru is continuing its efforts to build software, content, and ideas for constructionist class work. Through their ongoing partnership with LEGO Education, they will finish distributing 92,000 LEGO WeDo kits to OLPC classrooms in Peru, and will develop related robotics and programming curriculum for younger students.
 
And the Peru Ministry of Education continues to invest in developing new Sugar applications and learning games for their own schools and others, assisted by OLPC’s global volunteer community (eg. Somos Azúcar) finishing translations of Sugar into Aymara and Quechua, and translating a teacher’s curriculum guide — most recently into French for schools in Madagascar.

I hope to get an update from some of these devs at the upcoming eduJAM! summit in Uruguay.

Exploring New Technologies

cscott just rejoined our team from distant lands, to much rejoicing.  His first blog post covers his work this month to explore of software development paths for the XO-3. Welcome back!


XO-3 design

Last Monday I rejoined One Laptop Per Child as Director, New Technologies. My mandate is hardware and software for the XO-3, OLPC’s upcoming ARM-based tablet computer for education in the developing world. The new machine should be lower cost, lower power, more indestructible, more powerful, and potentially more expandable than ever. There are about two million machines in the XO-1 family (XO-1, XO-1.5) in the hands of kids today. The XO-3 will build upon this impressive foundation to reach further into the poorest and least-connected regions of the world.

I will kick-off my work with a series of four week-long sprints between now and eduJAM Uruguay to investigate possible directions for the educational software stack on the XO-3 tablet. On the XO-1 machines, OLPC ships Sugar, an impressive collection of educational software developed by Sugar Labs. How can we keep the best of Sugar while yanking the UI forward into a touch-friendly tablet world?

  1. This week (April 4-8) I’ll begin by working on a port of the GTK3 UI library to Android. The GTK3 library contains touch support missing from the GTK2 library (on which Sugar is currently based). The goal here is a port of the Python/GTK-based Sugar APIs, running on something like the Honeycomb Android OS.  Existing educational activities could be ported to new APIs without much difficulty, but we’d largely use existing Android OS facilities instead of Sugar’s low-level system management.  This is a preliminary exploration—we haven’t decided to base tablet software on Android (or anything else) yet.
  2. The week of April 11-15 I will start porting Python/GTK3 to Chrome or ChromeOS via the Google NativeClient plugin. This path would result in activities which more fully integrate with web technologies—even in disconnected regions of the world. On desktop machines, Sugar activities could run inside the Chrome browser, while ChromeOS (or another embedded OS running chrome/webkit) would provide system management functions on tablets like the XO-3. As with the Android port, this is exploration, not a definite software direction.
  3. The week of April 18-22 I hope to focus on mesh networking. This has a checkered history in our deployments; I hope to identify remaining roadblocks and map a way forward to make this a flagship feature of the XO-3.
  4. The week of April 25-29 is for the existing Python-based Sugar codebase. To continue moving forward, it needs to migrate to GTK3, gobject-introspection, and other key enabling technologies. It would also benefit from language-independent APIs and better modularization, to allow a more incremental migration path.

The following week is Conozco Uruguay and the Uruguay EduJAM — where I’ll present progress on these exploratory projects and discuss the path ahead with the OLPC and Sugar communities.  A week is not enough time to finish any of these projects! But the focused effort should help to identify the promise, roadblocks, and challenges in each path, which will help us plan the future.

Red Hat sponsors RIT student work on XO activities for the Deaf

Red Hat is sponsoring summer POSSE bootcamps (Professors’ Open Source Summer Experience), a brainchild of Mel’s, to introduce students to open source development and projects. Most POSSE projects have supported Fedora, Mozilla, or Sugar Labs in some fashion. At RIT, bootcamps this summer continue to build on the FOSS@RIT group’s efforts to develop tools that will support better hacking on tools for children in Sugar.

In particular, the group at RIT has been working for the past two years on tools to improve communication for deaf and hard of hearing children with XO laptops. Alumni of 2009 and 2010 workshops, bootcamps, and other events, worked with RIT’s Lab for Technological Literacy (LTL) and took a couple field trips to our Cambridge office, to develop a videochat activity with sufficient quality to support readable sign language over videochat.

It’s great to see this program thrive, and that OLPC and Sugar continue to be part of the motivation for some of the good work being planned.